The Best Bars in Sydney

Australians didn’t invent drinking but they may have perfected it. The national love of a good drink meets the sunny climate and lively culture of Sydney and is elevated beyond a tin of Foster’s into something magical. We’re talking sunny warehouse spaces devoted to beer worship and harborside terraces serving experimental wines and sophisticated cocktail lounges full of enthusiastic patrons. Cheers, mate!

169 Dolphin St, Coogee NSW 2034, Australia
A quick bus ride from the city (or a refreshing end to the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk), Coogee Pavilion is one of the most happening beach bars in Sydney. The downstairs area is home to a wood-fired pizza oven, oyster bar, juice stall, and kids’ zone with giant Scrabble, pétanque, ping pong, and nautical books, while the breezy rooftop features four different bars, outfitted with love seats and wire-frame stools for taking in the breathtaking bay views. Aussie wines and beers plus fruity cocktails shaken with house-made juice pair with Mediterranean-themed tapas like chargrilled lamb chops and blistered Padrón peppers.
210 Australia Street
Continental’s downstairs bar—with a marble countertop and chilies, garlic, and aged ham hanging overhead—transports diners to Spain or Portugal. Despite the old-world ambience, however, the menu and staff are young and playful. Pop in for a meatball sub and vermouth at lunch, or enjoy king-crab-stuffed zucchini flowers before moving on to slow-roasted lamb in the upstairs bistro. In either case, complement your meal with something canned—the deli’s specialty— whether it’s the seafood plate of the day or a “Cosmopoli-tin” cocktail. A whole wall of canned and jarred concoctions are also available to take home. In 2018, a second, and larger, outpost of Continental Deli was opened in the CBD.
4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia
Speakeasies and secret bars are an ongoing trend in Australian cities, namely Melbourne and Sydney. Down an unassuming alley off Crown Street, behind an equally unassuming doorway, lies Shady Pines Saloon—if it weren’t for the alcohol license on the door and the bouncer outside, you would never know it was there. Inside, the décor is reminiscent of an old hunting lodge or saloon in the American West, with mounted animal heads, vintage beer trays, dim lighting, Johnny Cash on the stereo, and peanut shells coating the floor. Mustachioed bartenders mix craft cocktails and can advise you on their selection of bourbons and whiskeys. The fresh-pressed apple juice and whiskey is always tasty, while the mystery moonshine in the “leg bottle” makes for an adventurous choice.
29/43-45 E Esplanade, Manly NSW 2095, Australia
One of the pioneers of the Sydney craft beer scene, 4 Pines opened in 2008 in a space that overlooks the shores and famous Norfolk pine trees of Manly Beach—one of the city’s dreamiest locations for a brewery. The upstairs brewpub serves the whole 4 Pines range of natural beers, which includes a hefeweizen, Kölsch, pale, amber, bitter, stout, IPA, and the Keller Door (a small-batch seasonal release that intends to challenge the beer industry). Order a tasting flight to determine your favorite. The brewery also offers a full menu of not-so-typical pub grub and operates a downstairs bunker for more innovative food and drink pairings. Live music, DJs, and comedians regularly lighten the mood, if the salty sea breezes aen’t enough.
1C Whateley St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Following the lead of mixed-use space Deus ex Machina in Camperdown, Rising Sun is a motorcycle workshop cum café and restaurant built for the Newtown community. That means garage space with tools and repair bays for members as well as regular workshops (one just for women), art events, and a public night ride on the last Tuesday of the month. Then there’s the rustic-chic café that whips up Asian-fusion cuisine that’s as rootsy and beautiful as the bikes. Come in the morning for breakfast ramen—bacon, roasted tomatoes, and a fried egg floating in bone broth—and a Japanese twist on a bloody mary. Then return for creative tapas and share plates in the evening complemented by a stellar list of Australian beers and wines.
80 Commonwealth St
Flickering candles, velvet theater curtains, hushed conversation, and classic cocktails dressed up with slices of dried lemon or lime—the Golden Age Cinema and Bar feels like a secret supper club of yesteryear. Yet, with a geometric light installation, fresh bar snacks and drinks, and a digital film projector, the experience is entirely modern. That’s exactly what owners Barrie, Bob and Chris Barton—who also launched Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne—were after: creating a bar and movie experience that combines the best of today with the best of yesterday. The theater, housed underground in the 1940s Paramount Pictures building, features 60 seats made in the ‘40s and sourced from Switzerland. Shows are both classic and contemporary, with two screenings per night as well as special events such as the monthly Two Thousand Film Club, during which a notable local picks their favorite film and engages in a live Q&A. Before or after the program, enjoy movie-inspired cocktails, including a daily cameo that’s crafted entirely around what’s being shown—think whiskey for the music documentary Muscle Shoals set along the Tennessee River—with herb and parmesan popcorn, maple-bourbon pecans, or the sundae that Gelato Messina reinvents every month. Oh, and on Tuesdays, films are shown at “golden age prices,” which means you could see a 1960s flick for $1 with the purchase of a drink. You’re welcome.
6 Mary St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia
Like many of the hippest bars in town, Mary’s is intentionally hard to find. As you make your way down King Street, hang a right on Mary Street and look for a bar on the left with no sign and a rocker crowd. Inside the two-story tavern, a chalkboard menu lists enough craft beers (including the house-brewed Slayer Juice), wines, spirits, and cocktails to require a second chalkboard for fried chicken and burgers (known as the best in town). Get your birds by the half, whole, or “Larry style”—two whole birds deep fried with mash and gravy—and your burger with “trashcan bacon.” Mary’s also does a bacon Bloody Mary with American cheese melted over the rim of the glass that’s more than worth a try.
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